Secrets to Building Great Teams

As I glumly watched the Minnesota Vikings lose to the Detroit Lions in the final game of 2010, I thought about how the football gods had abandoned that team during the season.

Indeed, it had been one thing after another for the Vikes over the past few months. Many of its first stringers succumbed to injury… its coach was fired… inclement weather sabotaged games in the Twin cities and in Philadelphia… two games were postponed… the roof on its home, the Metrodome, collapsed.

And so did the team's season.

Yes, it was a bizarre football year in Minnesota.

By the time you read this, of course, we should have a better understanding of this team and the season. Maybe we'll even have harvested a glimmer of hope for next year.

Beyond season-ending observations, however, there are some things we in business can take away about team building from this season — any season — if we look at the analogies football offers.

Here's what I mean…

Use stats and assessments
Watch any football game and the commentators will boggle your mind with statistics. Passes attempted and completed. Yards rushed per carry. Average number of yards allowed after a catch. Running yards a defensive line allows. Number of rushes or sacks.

These numbers aren't just for show; managers make decisions based on these statistics.
Imagine if business managers knew their employees as well as coaches know professional athletes.

Assessing your employees and teams as a baseline and then over a period of time, can give you tremendous insight. It can help you make more informed decisions about whom to "play" in which position on your team.

Manage your team
Any sporting season begins with selecting players and establishing the starting lineup — the players a coach feels give the team the best chance to win.

And throughout the course of the game and the season, the coach substitutes when someone needs a rest, when offensively he requires the skills of a particular player or defensively he needs a particular strength. In extreme cases, of course, an injury will dictate player moves.

How do you manage your teams? How do you choose which employee will fill which team role? Do you use only your star performers, or are you giving younger, less experienced employees a chance to learn and develop? How often do you revisit the makeup of your team, and its performance and goals?

Beware volatile players
Prima donnas exist in every group and they really stand out in professional sports. I'm talking about the star players with loads of talent who quickly fall from grace, are traded often and sometimes just fired because they are not team players. Think Randy Moss.

What can we learn from the Moss fiasco? That we shouldn't assume the best (smartest, most personable, most talented, etc.) people are the right people for your team. They might be superior individual performers who regularly meet and exceed their own personal targets, but ask yourself: Do they help or drain the team? Of course employee management needs delicate handling in a business setting, but sometimes you need to cut your best performer from the team and let someone better suited fill the roll.

Use inspirational coaching
You've seen football coaches pacing the side of the field, berating or praising players as they leave the field in an attempt to inspire them to perform.

For the last weeks of the season, the Vikings didn't need inspirational coaching as much as coaching to calm things down, and Leslie Frazier played that role.

Like Frazier, the best leaders know what is needed when. They know how to inspire everyone, from star players to journeyman bench players to rookies who represent their future. Some managers excel at giving praise and avoiding the discomfort of criticism. For others, it's the reverse. Giving both positive and negative feedback on a regular basis results in trusting relationships between coaches and players and the best opportunity for success. It's true in football and it's true in business.

Tips: Seven Tips to Help You Build a Championship Team

You've heard the expression "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I'm sure you know what it means: An effective team can accomplish more as a whole than its individual members can accomplish on their own.

The key word here is effective.

Building an effective, high-performing team requires more than simply throwing a group of outstanding individuals together. It requires planning, communication and decision-making.

Here are seven ways you can help yourself create and manage a high-performing team:
• Build support for your team with the right people at the right levels
• Establish conditions for team effectiveness
• Establish a meaningful performance goal
• Develop and following a decision-making process
• Establish appropriate norms
• Maintain strong communication channels
• Remain sensitive to diversity

If you focus on these important elements, you'll put yourself on the road to building a championship team.

Your Solution Toolbox: A Tool to Help You Analyze Your Team

Measuring What Matters

The Vikings of 2010 can teach us several things about teams and team building in business. For example:

1) The ability of a team to work effectively is greatly influenced by the individual characteristics of the team members and their synergy.
2) While a team can adjust to accommodate some issues, the fewer adjustments necessary, the more efficiently the team will function.
3) A team leader needs a good understanding of his team and its members.

So how do you, like a football team's coaching staff, get to know your team? Data.

Indeed, the more data available to help you understand the characteristics of your team members, the more focused your management.

If you need to better understand your team, Profile International's Team Analysis Report, part of its Performance Indicator tool, can help. There are three sections to this report:

The Team Balance Table section offers a visual map of where team members score on 12 important characteristics and identifies gaps within the team. You can use this information as a guide in altering team membership to ensure all characteristics are represented, or you can use it to determine where you need to be particularly vigilant to ensure team success.

The Overall Team Balance section will help you analyze the overall balance of your team. Good overall balance impacts cohesiveness and productivity and understanding it will help you with team management.

The Behavioral Factors section provides information on who your team members are and how they will behave. Because people make up a team, understanding their combined behavior is essential to team success.

If you'd like to know more about the Team Analysis Report, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to

HR Consulting

Call me, too, if you are looking for professional assistance with your personnel questions. We'll help you learn how to:

Let’s Talk! We offer a no obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures, and practices. This may help determine what’s missing in your current programs to meet the above recommendations. Call 952-322-3330 or send an email to

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